WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has announced that Arthur Heinricher, professor of mathematical sciences, has been appointed associate dean for the first year experience, a new position created to oversee and coordinate all aspects of the academic experience for first-year students at WPI.
As associate dean of the first year experience, Heinricher will make recommendations for new first-year programs and oversee their implementation and evaluation. He will, with the director of academic advising, operate the university’s innovative orientation and advising program for first-year students, and oversee first-year intensive courses, particularly those in math, physics, and chemistry. He will also assist with the coordination of first-year bridge projects that link math and science skills.
Heinricher will also oversee a campus-wide effort to enhance and broaden the first year academic experience at WPI, following the recommendations of a presidential commission and a faculty task force on the first year led by Gretar Tryggvason, professor and head of the Mechanical Engineering Department. The commission identified five objectives for an enhanced first-year program: encourage critical thinking, information literacy, and evidence-based writing in the first year; engage first-year students with current events, societal problems, and human needs; cultivate in each first-year student a personal foundation for lifelong learning; contribute to a more intellectually stimulating environment at WPI; promote civic engagement and community partnerships.
“Professor Heinricher has demonstrated great interest and creativity in innovative pedagogical approaches for the early college years,” says Provost Carol Simpson, who made the appointment. “His breadth of teaching experience at WPI, his demonstrated success in developing external support and recognition for undergraduate programs provide a superb foundation for his success as associate dean for the first-year experience.”
Heinricher, who joined the WPI faculty in 1992, has a bachelor of science in applied mathematics from the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a PhD in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. At WPI, his teaching has focused on first- and second-year students. He has been director of the university’s Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics since 2003.
Heinricher has taught in the Project-based Learning Communities program for selected first-year students and has served as an advisor to Insight, a program which connects first-year students with faculty, staff, and student mentors outside the classroom to help first-year students build strong academic and social connections at WPI. He has extensive experience in the pre-college area, including in the Mathematics in Industry Institutes for Teachers and Focus on Mathematics Partnership programs. He also has served as principal investigator on a successful Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics summer program that brings college math students from across the nation to work at WPI.
“One fundamental goal for the new office is to make the first year of college as exciting as the other three years of the WPI undergraduate program,” Heinricher says. “This will require a different kind of support for students who are not quite ready for the independence and responsibility that comes with university life. Support for student personal development is a key to achieving academic success.”